Govʼt spokesman defends plan to detain asylum seekers


Hungary will submit proposals to the EU to automatically detain any asylum seeker for the whole period of their asylum application, government spokesman Zoltán Kovács was quoted as saying by the U.K.ʼs The Guardian newspaper today. Kovács said applicants would be held in “shelters,” denying they would be “detention centers.”

The report in Tuesdayʼs The Guardian said Kovács claimed Donald Trump’s election in the U.S. is contributing to “a change of mood in Europe” that vindicated Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s tough position on migration, and said the recent EU summit in Malta marked a turning point in the EU’s attitude to migration in the Mediterranean.

At a briefing in London, Kovács said anyone seeking asylum through Hungary would be kept in “shelters” for the whole period of their application, though they would be free to go back to their own country at any point.

“No migrants – not even those who have already issued their request for asylum – will be able to move freely until there is a primary legal decision whether they are entitled for political asylum, refugee status or anything else,” Kovács was quoted as saying in the report.

The Guardian report notes that Hungary has repeatedly clashed with the EU over its migration policy, including its decision to erect a fence on its Serbian border and refusal to accept EU asylum quotas. The government held a referendum on the latter issue last October, which was declared invalid due to insufficient turnout, although the government subsequently attempted to claim it as a success.

Kovács said he expects a further clash with Brussels over the new asylum plan, but suggested current rules were being abused and that many asylum seekers on appeal have absconded to other countries such as Germany and the U.K .

“If we maintain the existing regime, we are not able to control what is happening at the borders or within Europe,” he added.

Kovács insisted that that although applicants would not be allowed to move freely in the country, the camps should not be described as “detention centers.”

“It is not about detention, it is about not giving the same opportunity for them as provided to European citizens,” he said. “The name of the game today is illegal migration. Everybody who comes to the EU as a migrant basically comes here illegally.”

“In line with international law, we do not believe just because someone comes from Syria and there is a civil war, it should entitle groups of people to come to the European Union, especially as they will have crossed many safe countries on the way,” Kovács was quoted as saying in the report.

He added that when Orbán had proposed camps be set up in north Africa, he had been denounced as a provocateur, but now “what was denounced as utopian or insane is now starting to rule the agenda.”

The Guardian notes that conditions in existing Hungarian refugee camps have been severely criticized by human rights groups such as Amnesty International. Nevertheless, Kovács promised the new “shelters” would provide food and education for children, including unaccompanied children.

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